Last time I talked about my father’s service in the defense of the country of Egypt many years ago. It’s a story worth hearing. It perhaps helps somewhat to keep any current crisis in more perspective.
The New Economy?
My father was a good if not great story teller. He claimed it was an old family tradition. I grew up on tales of and from history in a way most people would not consider normal. Human history and today were stitched together at the dinner table every night without fail.
As a son I certainly filled up with Gurkha stories.
If the job was difficult there was always a Gurkha story about to inspire you to perspire more.
Mind you my Pop was a man who thought heat stroke in the Saturday August afternoon was pretty much the normal price for work on a home improvement project. He was a “white collar, sales, and tech” guy who built my childhood home at the edge of the “wilderness” by hand just to do it. I cleaned the foundation ditches of the old home with a Campbell’s tomato soup can when I was five. The life was a participatory event.
In the fifth grade I could and did carry 90lb cement sacks 100+ yards and lug a pair of 16” cider blocks a few times between the sack trips. I got to mix the mortar to rest and water up between the huffing trips. At the time I most certainly didn’t weight 90lbs. I whined a lot when I wasn’t catching my breath.
“Yeah Dad and you had to walk miles uphill every day both ways in the snow to go to school.”
“Actually kids it rarely snowed where I grew up. It was only 1/3 of a mile trudge over a mud impassable road to the truck and the main road in the winter. School was 3 miles away and only 2000’ downhill. I didn’t have to walk home too often. The real nasty was hauling the paper grocery bags through the adobe mud in the rain when we got home. This was after dark. That’s the real reason I’m not a fan of canned food.”
No one told me this level of effort wasn’t possible or child abuse. I only had to do this at the most a couple of days a week, often for only half the day at a time, and the project would get done. Cider block would be replaced by lumber, lumber by cordwood, etc. Bursts are a real world fact not a theoretical concept.
I sometimes earned the privilege to go to the Saturday matinée at the movie theater down in the flatland. Feed the chickens at first light? – normal. Where does breakfast come from was easy to grasp.
Like I said, I grew up on Gurkha toughness stories. Until early in high school I thought they were a made up myth (or at the least a paternal embellishment) like Santa Claus. I was lucky to go to a school with a really exceptional library. I read original accounts of the British Empire’s painful and eventually fateful meeting with them. What they did afterwards…Oh Dear!
Read More History
Next year will be the 200th year the long relationship of the Gurkha and the British army. Lucky for us in the United States this symbiotic relationship began after the War of 1812. In WWII there were 112,000+ Gurkha serving in the armies of the British Empire. Today there are 3500. They still carry the knives.
“Gurkha” is really a place or rather an annual event tied to a tradition and a treaty and not specifically a single tribe of people. People in Nepal will call themselves Gurkha. What you think that means may make them smile.
Each year only 200 Nepalese young men are allowed into the formal British military training program.
There is a contest for these spots each year overseen by Gurkha veterans and everybody else.
This remains the big community event.
Can You Make the Cut
According to the BBC in 2010, the first day cut out test is still pretty serious.
Haul 70lbs of rock in a basket on your back uphill for 40 minutes at Himalayan altitude.
To big clear – everybody does the weight and the time.
Show up with your own basket. The rocks are everywhere.
The real test is how many miles you can run within the time limit.
Normal humans and perhaps even well-trained athletes need not apply.
How many Gurkha wantabes show up to participate each year?
What would be your guess? 1000, 2000 (a 1 in 10 shot), 3500, maybe 5000?
In 2010 about 28,000 young men participated. This is a normal number.
The rock run is the morning of the first day.
It is designed to thin the body count down to manageable numbers for the serious competition.
Mind you this friendly and fierce competition is for the CHANCE to be trained to get a job.
I’m still curious to know if the best unselected ones get the chance to try and become Sherpa?
These are, of course, the Nepalese folks that we see as doing the heroic huffing for the Himalayan mountain climbers.
We in the West separate who we are from what we do. This seems a bit silly to those that don’t - especially coming from people with names like Harry Potter or Hilary.
Time to Rethink Opportunity?
Maybe someone should post a BBC story about the Gurkha contest in every Employment Opportunity/Development office in the country.
Ok, folks. For the CHANCE to get your Social Services check you have to complete a marathon.
When you’ve done with that, you can get back in line.
Your retirement program now comes with a simple stipulation.
To qualify for the CHANCE to collect it a member of your immediate family must complete an Ironman competition before the end of the calendar year – each year.
Your guaranteed student loan program will require you complete 3 science courses (with labs) each semester for the first two years with a grade of A or better.
Partial payments are only made to you after the completion of each semester successfully.
Obviously, these potential chances at opportunity might lend themselves to more useful pursuits than these. However, any useful work might interfere with those already employed and therefore lead itself to union and political opposition in this The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
I suppose we could televise a series of realty TV events and employ the profits from the air time to reduce the program expenses.
Nah. We’d be taking advantage of the deprived and the downtrodden. False hope is oppression after all.
Such contests are inhumane you say?
Nah. I just know…
More Human is Possible
Just so you know…
In today’s Nepal one of the most nasty and un-talked about problems is the child prostitution and slavery market.
Young Nepalese girls (10-12 or younger) are at times purchased but more often stolen from their families and sent down the mountain into India to serve as sex slaves for years in brothels. Those that survive until their early or mid-twenties are eventually simply cast out onto the street.
A good number are picked up and forcibly returned to Nepal each year by the Indian authorities. The Indian government typically does not prosecute the brothel owners or stop the practice. That has continued for centuries. It long predates the British “occupation” of the subcontinent. Like I said last time, there are reasons for the reputation for silence in the Gurkha.
There are few native Nepalese Christian ministries doing real work to help these women.
Look for ones that run homes where the women are taught and practice real trades and produce real wares.
Most importantly look for homes that are run and operated by the returned women themselves.
They are Gurkha veterans too in a manner of speaking.
70lbs of rock on your back uphill for 40 minutes for the chance to have a life CAN look like a piece of cake.